KZ Okpala is a 6’9” forward who has tantalizing athletic potential. He has incredible length and long strides, able to glide past defenders. Okpala played for a very bad Stanford team and his draft stock has dropped due to lack of exposure and losing in a very weak PAC-12 conference. In his second season for the Cardinals, Okpala averaged 16.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 2 assists per game. He showed tremendous improvement from his first to second season, which is a major positive that NBA teams will be looking for.
KZ Okpala 2019 NBA Draft Profile
KZ Okpala NBA Draft Positives
Okpala is a terror in transition where he is able to pull down rebounds and lead the break himself. He has incredibly long strides, similar to the way that Giannis Antetokounmpo does, although not on the same level. Okpala is able to use an impressive array of side-steps, euro-steps, and spin moves to get to the rim where he can finish above defenders with his 7’2” wingspan. Okpala is also very dangerous off the ball attacking close-outs. He glides past defenders trying to contest his shot from the outside and is able to either finish with highlight-reel dunks and layups or stop short and hit floaters in the lane.
Although Okpala does not often make elite reads and passes, he is a willing passer and moves the ball well. Generally a good decision maker, Okpala will often make the simple play, turning a good shot into a great shot for a teammate. He only averaged 2 assists per game last season, but a lot of that was due to the fact that his teammates missed shots. Okpala also sets solid screens and is a good role man. He times his movement well and is able to catch the ball at the elbow and make a play either driving to the rim or kicking it out to an open teammate.
KZ Okpala NBA Draft Negatives
Despite his insane length and good athleticism, Okpala did not make the defensive impact one would expect him to have. Smaller, quicker guards with a low center of gravity were able to take advantage of him off of the bounce. You would expect him coming off the weak side and erasing shots with regularity or roving and jumping passing lanes. However, Okpala only averaged 0.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game.
There are also significant question marks about his ability to make shots from the outside. His shooting percentages took a Shaquille O’Neal sized jump from his freshman to sophomore season. KZ Okpala went from averaging 22% on 1.3 three-point attempts per game to 37% on 3.0 attempts per game. His form is still a little funky and some of his misses are not very pretty. How he adapts to shooting over NBA size and length will probably make or break his NBA career.
There is a little Maurice Harkless in his size and length for his position while also maintaining solid ball-skills. Like Harkless, he has long strides when attacking the rim and can finish over or through defenders. Like Harkless, Okpala comes into the NBA as a willing defender with a good motor. However, neither were finished products on that end of the floor. Okpala will have to improve his instincts and maintain a consistent jump shot if he wants to become an effective NBA player.
Round 1, Pick 18 Indiana Pacers
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